THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Energy Focus — Firm Aims to Pump Up Florida Natural Gas Use

Oct 20, 2010

The following article was published by The News Service of Florida on October 19, 2010:


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Oct. 19, 2010……….Trucks and high density vehicles moving across Florida highways using natural gas will soon have more options when they need to refuel.

NoPetro opened its statewide headquarters to local fanfare in Tallahassee Tuesday, saying it will help usher in a new green era by building 12 liquid and compressed natural gas fueling stations in cities around the state.

Founder Jorge Herrera said the company, the second natural gas station company in the state, will provide fuel primarily for trucks and school buses, some of which can already used liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas.

Herrera extolled the values of encouraging other large fleets to make that transition, saying natural gas was cheaper than petroleum, which primarily powers vehicles on the road now.

“It’s at least 25 percent cheaper than petroleum or diesel, it’s dramatically cleaner – 33 percent cleaner than diesel – and it’s domestic, it’s our own fuel,” he said. “We have the largest supply of natural gas in the entire world. We are Saudi Arabia for natural gas.”

The Florida Natural Gas Association says the state uses 728 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year, but most of it – 85 percent – is used by electric utilities.

Herrera said he and his partner Jack Locke started the NoPetro company to change that, after they saw the success of natural gas companies in California. There, he said, there are over 300 natural gas stations, making it easier for big companies like UPS to convert the their trucking fleets to natural gas. The company hopes to create the same infrastructure here, starting with the first 12 stations.

“We founded NoPetro in 2008 with the goal of introducing natural gas to the state of Florida, to develop a network throughout the entire state that will provide medium and heavy duty vehicles in particular with the ability to travel throughout the state uninhibited,” he said. “To be able to fuel at all our facilities and have the same experience they would have in any gasoline station.”

On its opening day Tuesday, NoPetro won support from the Florida Trucking Association. FTA Vice President Matt Ubben said that although the trucking industry was still weighing alternative fuel technologies, “it continues to lend strong conceptual support to fuel conservation initiatives and the voluntary use of certain forms of alternative energy.”

“The trucking industry is very supportive of the effort to explore alternative fuels,” he said. “Liquefied natural gas is an emerging fuel alternative in the commercial motor vehicle market and we acknowledge that natural gas engines are providing an alternative for the trucking industry.”

The key to a meaningful increase in natural gas use though, Ubben said, is building a network of stations like Herrera said exists in California.

“Creating a statewide network of natural gas stations will make natural gas a viable alternative for the first time,” Ubben said.

NoPetro also drew kudos Tuesday from Linda Dunwoody, who chairs the Tallahassee Economic Development Council’s renewable energy and environment roundtable. Dunwoody said more natural gas would be good both the city and the state.

Florida Petroleum Council executive director David Mica also said the entrance into the market of NoPetro – though a possible competitor for gasoline stations– was good for Florida nonetheless.

“We welcome then into the market place,” Mica said. “Natural gas is great low carbon fuel (and) it burns efficiently. Solving our energy crisis isn’t just about oil and gas, it takes multiple forms of fuel. CNG and LNG (companies) have been in place. None have grown to be a real substantive part of market place, but every little bit helps.”